The grounds of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival opens early and closes early – the whole thing finishes up around 7pm each night.
On May 4th, 2014 I spent most of the day onsite at what is unquestionably one of the world’s great music festivals. At the time NOLA Jazzfest had been around for going on fifty years, nearly a half-century of showcasing the greatest musicians on the planet in the heart of the city that gave birth to jazz. It’s not surprising that they’ve learned how to do it up right.
It was a beautiful, hot day and I bounced between one stage and another sitting on the grass watching Arcade Fire, John Fogerty, and Trombone Shorty. Heck, the fact that I could only be at one stage at a time caused me to miss enough acts for a whole other music festival! To think I missed sets by Chick Corea, The Radiators, Aaron Neville, Ivan Neville, George Porter Jr. and countless others…but trust me, I made some pretty good decisions.
At the Trombone Shorty set the area in front of the stage was left free for audience members to dance. One by one people stepped up and stole the show with remarkable dance moves that were invariably met with thunderous applause from the overtly enthusiastic crowd. Eventually there was a lineup beside the stage as energetic audience members waited for their moment in the sun.
When things got too hot I poked my head into the massive gospel tent full of ladies fanning themselves and men holding their hands up to Jesus, as cool mist cascaded from a network of tubes snaking overhead and glorious music poured from a stage crowded with golden-voiced worshippers.
And oh, the food! Good luck finding a plain old hot dog at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival! Shrimp po’boys, jambalaya bowls, gatorballs and prawn burgers are more like it. Deep fried crab legs were very popular – it looked like people were walking around munching on Martian French fries.
One of the highlights of the day was a set by the Preservation Hall horns. Sitting on a manicured lawn under the hot sun in New Orleans listening to real old-time jazz music with a thousand true music fans surrounding me was a real treat.
Before sunset the day was done, but the night of after shows was just beginning. But that’s a whole other ticket stub!